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Spiritual Indicators (fwd)

Sep 26, 1996 04:09 PM
by K. Paul Johnson

Having spent the first half of my dinner hour skimming a new
book called The Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators, I'm
spending the second half posting tidbits to all the lists I
read, since there's stuff here relevant to everyone.

2/3 of Americans say they have a personal commitment to Jesus
Christ, but 44 percent of self-described Christians say they
are "moderately committed" to the faith vs. 41 percent
"absolutely committed." 68 percent say they have felt the
presence of God at some time in their lives, but 71 percent say
they have never felt it in church.  The percentage of people
who call themselves religious is now 60.  85 percent of
Americans consider themselves Christians, and the
Catholic/Protestant ratio remains stable.  Asked about whether
they had favorable or unfavorable, strong or weak feelings
about various groups' influence, people viewed Christians most
favorably, then Jews, with Muslims and Buddhists tied at only
29 percent favorable, with atheists dead last at 14 percent.
Scientologists had the highest negatives at 39 percent, but 21
percent were favorable.

58 percent of Americans believe the Bible is totally accurate,
and 45 percent think that everything in it can be taken literally.
93 percent believe that God exists, but only 88 percent believe
that Jesus really lived.  Yet 85 percent believe in the virgin
birth, and the same number believe in the resurrection.  Still,
44 percent say Jesus was human and committed sins.  70 percent
believe he will return to earth.  Levels of religious knowledge
are amazingly low: 38% believe that the entire Bible was
written in the decades after the death of Jesus.  10% think
NOAH'S WIFE WAS NAMED JOAN OF ARC!!!  22 percent believe that
Jesus was unmarried because "He was a priest and priests did
not marry."  Almost a third of Americans don't know how many
apostles there were, 41 percent don't know where Jesus was
born, and 80 percent believe mistakenly that the Bible includes
the quote "God helps those that help themselves."

Although 73 percent believe in all the Biblical miracles, only
8 percent believe that astrology can predict the future.
Still, about 20% consistently describe themselves as New Agers
during the last 8 years.

This is probably enough of a taste to whet people's appetites--
if this kind of material interests you, look for the book at a
bookstore or library.  The main thing that comes through all
the statistics is that spiritual diversity and syncretism are
making headway, churches are not held in high repute and are
losing influence, knowledge about religion is declining,
religious activities are declining, but basic adherence to
Christianity (ever more loosely defined) remains stable.  The
new perception of religion is "a personalized, customized form
of faith views which meets personal needs, minimize rules and
absolutes, and which bears little resemblance to the `pure'
form of any of the world's major religions."(p. 139)

If anyone has any questions about other statistics I'll look
them up.  Comments?

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